Private gifts help UMR maintain momentum

Public universities like UMR can no longer rely on as much state support as they have in the past. Fortunately, UMR raised more private money during the last fiscal year than in any other year of the university’s history.
The total amount of private funds raised in fiscal year 2006 exceeded $21 million, topping the $19.4 million raised in fiscal year 2005. These private donations will go a long way toward helping UMR maintain and grow its reputation as the state’s premier technological research institution.

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Rankings bolster reputation

If there were ever any doubts about UMR’s standing as a top technological research university, two major rankings during the past year should have put those doubts to rest.
First, UMR was named one of the nation’s 25 “most connected” campuses in a survey conducted by Forbes and The Princeton Review. That report, posted on the Forbes.com website last January, identified UMR among the universities “closest to the cutting edge” of technological innovation.
Last June, UMR made CIO magazine’s 2006 “CIO 100” list for its unified web presence. The annual list highlights businesses, universities and other organizations the magazine sees as the most tech-innovative.
All of this is happening in one of the nation’s best small towns, according to a recent report from BizJournals.com. Rolla is 13th on the BizJournal list of “America’s Dream Towns,” and second in the Midwest region.

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Time for a new name?

For 42 years, this campus has been known as the University of Missouri-Rolla, or UMR. But does that name really reflect the university’s true identity?
That’s one of the questions UMR alumni, students, faculty and staff are pondering as the university community considers the possibility of changing the campus’s name.
During his “State of the University” address on Oct. 9, Chancellor John F. Carney III called upon students, faculty and staff to enter into a discussion about the university’s name. He’s also seeking feedback from alumni.

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Perrin Roller: A volunteer who loves UMR

Whether he says it in Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, French or Arabic, Perrin Roller, GeoE’80, is ready to tell anyone who will listen why he loves UMR.
“Going to a technically oriented school like UMR is so different than going to a comprehensive university because it is so specialized,” Roller explains. “You’re immersed with people you’re going to work with the rest of your career, you make a lot of life-long friends.”

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Fueling the future

One of the greatest challenges facing the United States in the 21st century is how energy is produced and consumed. The country’s dependence on foreign oil is often cited as a security risk, the Achilles’ heel of our economy. The concern is understandable: America consumes a quarter of the globe’s daily production, producing high levels of carbon dioxide and other emissions that many believe are contributing to global warming.

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Prime slime: UMR has big plans for underground algae

Imagine thousands of Plexiglass tubes stored underground much like wine in a temperature-controlled cellar. While grapes are the prime ingredient in a bottle of Chardonnay, these tubes are full of odorous algae. And the long tubes of green slime are stored vertically, with carbon dioxide bubbling up from the bottom. Timed pulses of water push overflow algae – engineered to replicate four times daily – out the top of the tube and into a collection system, where the overflow is squeezed to yield, get this, crude oil.

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Farming new fuels

Cattle and corn may soon connect at the gas pump
Ethanol pulled into the fast lane in Missouri this year when Gov. Matt Blunt approved a bill requiring that gasoline sold in the state be blended with at least 10 percent of the corn-based biofuel by Jan. 1, 2008.
As with most alternative sources of energy, ethanol has significant benefits: it‘s a clean-burning, high-octane fuel that can help keep gas prices down by increasing and diversifying the nation‘s fuel supply. Yet there‘s a major catch: energy is needed to grow corn and turn it into ethanol.
In ethanol production, the starch portion of the corn is fermented into alcohol and then distilled. Natural gas and electricity are used to run the ethanol plant, powering everything from the hammer mill that grinds the feedstock into a fine powder to the boilers that liquefy the starches.

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Your own…personal…fuel cell

By 2015, drivers may be less concerned about gas mileage than about hydrogen storage. By 2030, the United States’ dependency on foreign oil to power our cars and trucks could be a thing of the past.
A few years later, homeowners might be able to drop off the grid, generating their own power from in-house fuel cells and leaving behind nothing but clean, potable water.
Yangchuan Xing, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, is working to bring these possibilities into reality using polymer electrolyte membrane (or PEM) fuel cells.
In a PEM fuel cell, electrons are conducted across two electrodes with a polymer membrane sandwiched between them. The anode is fueled with hydrogen to produce protons and electrons. The polymer membrane conducts the protons through to the cathode, where they recombine with electrons and oxygen to form water, the only byproduct of a PEM fuel cell. The process creates the electricity to power devices from laptop computers to cars to homes.
“It’s a very environmentally friendly process,” Xing says.

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Run Rabbit, run

Rabbit.jpgNorman Cox figures his 1977 Volkswagen Rabbit gets the equivalent of about 130 miles to the gallon – primarily because it doesn’t run on gasoline.
Cox bought the Rabbit in the 1980s with the idea of converting it into an electric car, an idea he’d been kicking around since the oil embargo of 1973. “I drove it for a year, and it was a real lemon,” says Cox, an associate professor of electrical engineering at UMR.

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Getting on board

Soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., may soon get the chance to reduce their use of fossil fuels and ease the strain on their wallets – just by sitting down.
The idea is simple. A public transit system would transport commuters along the Interstate 44 corridor, from Fort Leonard Wood to Rolla and Lebanon. If successful, hydrogen-powered shuttle buses would then retire the gasoline-powered fleets, creating the first rural test site for the federal government’s hydrogen technology program.

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